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Showing posts from March 3, 2002
Remora "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?" "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." "The dog did nothing in the night-time." "That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes. That was, indeed, a curious incident, for those who have ears to hear (that there is nothing to hear) and eyes to see (that there is nothing to see). Well, campers, consider the curious incidents that await us in today's newspaper. One headline says, The surprise recovery is here. America is in great shape, happy days are here again, and Bushiepoo has avoided the curse of the house of Bush, which, before, has always gloomily exuded recession around its slimy walls. But what is this, Watson? Chap says Japan in deep recession, make that depression, with an incredible 4.5 percent drop in GDP. Curious. The stats the Financial Times packs into its first graf are heart stoppers: "Japan's econom
Remora The Enlightenment was a great age for sympathy. The whole Scottish school, from Hume to Adam Smith, had spotted sympathy floating about in the culture and gone -- aha! Because the cultural sea, according to the best authorities, consisted of self interest -- wave after wave of the stuff -- so the question was, why was there morality at all? Sympathy was a respectable escape from self interest, without wholly being an escape. Besides, there is, in this idea, an agreeable dependence on some kind of narration. In fact, this moral elevation of sympathy surely fed into the later nineteenth century fascination with stories. First comes the moralist, then the novelist. Hume, for instance, in his treatise on Human Nature , has this to say: "We may begin with considering a-new the nature and force of sympathy. The minds of all men are similar in their feelings and operations, nor can any one be actuated by any affection, of which all others are not, in some degree, suscepti
Remora WP does the "on the one hand, on the other hand" kinda story (the tergiversations of moderation, as the late Barry Goldwater might have said) about the proposed drilling of the Arctic Refuge. The environmentalists and the Oil Reich, the message is, are both pulling fast ones. Under the headline, Some Facts Clear In the War of Spin Over Arctic Refuge , Michael Grunwald plays the honest referee, whistle a-blowin'. But the article turns out to be spin for that most dangerous of media vices -- Middle-ism. The media loves to think the truth is in the middle. Sometimes, as with donuts, this is a big mistake -- since the middle is approximately nothing. A big zip. And the more you stand for the big zip, the further from reality you are. Here's the truth. It is simple. The Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, has spent her whole life working to moderate, or decimate, environmental laws and regulations. She has never shown any park management skills. Sh
Remora "The soul, being eternal, after death is like a caged bird that has been released. If it has been a long time in the body, and has become tame by many affairs and long habit, the soul will immediately take another body and once again become involved in the troubles of the world. The worst thing about old age is that the soul's memory of the other world grows dim, while at the same time its attachment to things of this world becomes so strong that the soul tends to retain the form that it had in the body. But that soul which remains only a short time within a body, until liberated by the higher powers, quickly recovers its fire and goes on to higher things." This is from one of Plutarch's letters. We're thinking about Plutarch this morning. The consolatory vision expressed in that letter casts a different light on biography as a genre. If one soul can exist, serially, in a number of bodies, life's accidents among the troubles of this world beco
Remora The Colombia business. Colombia seems especially cursed by fantasy. The Spanish, the English, all its earlier explorers and ravishers, were pressed forward by a crazy vision of El Dorado -- that story came from reports of Indians in Colombia. El Dorado is not defunct. It has simply changed to something you smoke or put up your nose -- our fantasy, their product, and our fantasy of protecting ourself against their product. There are many logics to the drug war, but they are all oddly divorced from the ostensible purpose of it. For thirty years the US has fought against the statistical norm of drug use within a population able to afford its tastes, and every year (surprise!) it loses. However, in war, loss is sometimes gain. The structure that fights the war, now, exerts a considerable economic pull, from the prison industry out there in the hinterlands, employing former dairy farmers, to the exciting world of rent-a-cops. The war in Colombia is multi-purpose, and the pol